The Charter Oak
Royal Charter of 1662 is one of the earliest and most significant
legal documents in Connecticut history. The Charter, preceded only
by the Fundamental Orders, is the source of the legend of the
Charter Oak. While the Fundamental Orders, prepared by Roger Ludlow
and other leaders of the Colony in 1639, were considered the first
constitution; the Charter was signed by an English king, Charles II,
and virtually guaranteed Connecticut the right to govern itself.
No wonder then that in
1687, King James II intent upon gaining control of all the colonies,
revoked the Charter and sent his Agent with an armed troop to seize
the document. Here the tale takes a dramatic twist. In a candle lit
room, representatives of the Governor and forces of the King
gathered to discuss surrender of the Charter. Suddenly the room went
dark, and when the candles were lit, the charter that had been on
the table was gone, hidden in a white oak tree.
legend has endured to this day, its significance emphasized by the
selection of the Charter Oak for the design of the Connecticut State
quarter in 1999. For a narrative of the Charter Oak episode and the
nickname "Constitution State" check the web site of the
Connecticut Register and Manual.
The Royal Charter can be
viewed at the Museum of Connecticut History, framed, it is said, in
wood from the Charter Oak Tree.
of Connecticut Legal History